When Nina began treatment for breast cancer at the age of 36, she saw her body change drastically. As she began to recover, she discovered a new side of herself. 

Nina, a slim biracial woman with big curly hair, smiles broadly for the camera

I couldn’t stop thinking about my daughter 

When they told me it was breast cancer, I only took in those words. I couldn’t hear anything after that. 

It was even worse finding out later that it was triple negative. In that moment, my life stopped. My daughter was six at the time and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I knew I had to keep going for her. 

I cried in front of her, which had never happened before. She ran straight over to me and gave me a massive hug. I explained to her as much as I could, as I wanted to be open and honest with her and empower her with knowledge. I’m hoping it will teach her to be compassionate. 

I lost myself during treatment 

When treatment started, I totally lost my identity. Not just the physical aspects, like losing your hair and eyebrows, but I couldn’t plan my life. Everything got put on pause. I lost my freedom. 

I didn’t want pity from others but eventually I had to accept that I was sick. My daughter didn’t leave my side, she wanted to look after me. We were going through this together.  

There were days where I was too weak to even shower on my own. That’s when my mum and daughter would watch over me. I saw their faces when my hair began to fall out in the shower – that’s one of the worst memories. 

I mainly tried to keep my hair during treatment because I was worried about how my daughter would feel seeing me poorly. I wanted to protect her. Her insecurities about me losing my hair took precedence over my own. 

My body looked completely different 

As treatment progressed, I watched myself change every day. I felt like I was fading away from the person I was. I didn’t feel like a woman, I didn’t feel attractive. I lost weight, I was covered in bruises, my nails turned black and yellow, my skin colour changed. I looked ill. 

I didn’t want to look at myself after surgery. I was scared about what I was going to see.  

I didn’t realise that I would still feel so low after treatment was over. During treatment, my goal was to stay alive, and I was so focused on it. When I finished, my mind started to process everything I had been through. 

Then, when lockdown happened, it was like a second wave of cancer. I was stuck at home, unable to plan or live my life. 

But the surgery helped save me, and the scars I have are part of my journey. Having my appearance change meant I had to dig down and find out what makes me beautiful. I saw parts of my face that I’d never seen or noticed before. It taught me to focus on the good things about myself and gave me time to reevaluate everything. I was able to accept myself in a different way. 

In a way, when I was stripped of my features, I felt born again. 

Now, I am much kinder to myself 

Before I was diagnosed, I wasn’t kind to my body. I was very judgmental of the way I looked and critical of the smallest things. But when I was going through treatment, I could appreciate what my body was doing for me. That’s when I thought, ‘Why have I been so unkind to myself?’ 

My outlook has completely changed. I’m a different person now. I’m more compassionate, I enjoy the little things in life, and I always try to be present. When I was sick, at times all I could do was go for walks, so even these small moments are very special and precious to me. I want my daughter to value these moments too. 

However, when you’re told you could die, life is never really the same. I had to start over again. I’m a work in progress, and some days I still don’t feel great. 

My daughter motivates me. She looks up to me and I’m always trying to set her a good example - I want her to love her body and be comfortable in her own skin.  

When I was a little girl, people used to tease me for my hair, and I would try to straighten the curls. Now it’s growing back to how it was when I was back then, and I love it. I want my daughter to learn from this, and I want her to love her hair too. 

I hope to empower and give hope to others 

When I’m not feeling body confident, I make sure I’m quick to switch my mindset. Therapy has really helped with this. This body took on cancer, it got me through months of chemotherapy and surgery, and it’s still here. 

I also believe in the power of dressing to make yourself feel better. When you see someone put on a suit, you instantly see a change in their body language and behavior. Makeup can do the same.  

During treatment, I would try and dress up as much as I could, even when I had nowhere to go. It made me feel empowered. I would put my makeup and wig on for chemotherapy, put my best attitude on, and tackle it as though it were a job. 

Because of this, I’m so pleased to be supporting this year’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign. I knew that, when I finished treatment, I wanted to be able to help others – to give people hope and let them know it will get better. I especially wanted other biracial and Black women to feel represented. Sharing my story on social media is my way of doing that.  

My advice to others is to love your body and be kind to it. Stop, reflect and appreciate what you have. 

 

You can help support people like Nina by purchasing something from our Fashion Targets Breast Cancer range. Every piece sold helps fund vital research and care for people with breast cancer.

Fashion Targets Breast Cancer